Glasgow North East by-election

Following the resignation of former Speaker, Michael Martin MP, there is to be a by-election in his Glasgow North East constituency. This will take place on the 12 November. The candidates are as follows, with links and info where available.

In keeping with my policy set out in the Norwich North thread, this blog does not include direct links to British National Party websites or candidates.

Updated 1 November with Scottish Socialist Party link

Charlie BAILLIE – British National Party
Willie BAIN – Scottish Labour Party Candidate
Eileen BAXENDALE – Scottish Liberal Democrats
Mev BROWN – Independent (Fellow blogger Kristofer Keane informs me that Brown has stood in various Scottish elections with different party labels each time, namely thus far Referendum Party, UK Independence Party, NHS First, Scottish Voice Party, and the Jury Team.
Colin CAMPBELL – The Individuals Labour and Tory (TILT) This newly registered party seems to be a mix of traditional Tory, old Labour, and Whig-influenced policy pick-n-mix with some terrible poetry to boot.
Ruth DAVIDSON – Scottish Conservative and Unionist
David DOHERTY – Scottish Green Party
Mikey HUGHES – Independent. Mr Hughes took part in Big Brother. Did he win? I have no idea.
David KERR – Scottish National Party (SNP)
Louise McDAID – Socialist Labour Party
Kevin McVEYScottish Socialist Party – Make Greed History
Tommy SHERIDAN – Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement
John SMEATONJury Team. Smeaton is the Glasgow Airport baggage handler who “took on” the attempted terrorist attack while on duty with the now infamous words “This is Glasgow: we’ll set aboot ye”.

If there any further updates or links, I will try my hardest to add them.

I wish Liberal Democrat candidate Eileen Baxendale all the best of luck in what will be a testing by-election fight.

Index Eye

By using Google Analytics and StatCounter I am able to spot who is reading what, when, and from where they are staring through a screen at my Missives. Oo-er and indeed missus.

The following six (and a bit) entries are not necessarily the most popular, rather they have maintained a loyal little readership long after the publication date. Can blog entries be “published”? Of course they can, that orange button says “PUBLISH POST”. Right, good, that’s sorted.

So, here are the “Top 6-ish blog entries which have maintained popularity over a certain amount of time, listed to give readers a chance to peruse entries they may have missed. Type thing.”

1. Book Clubbed. In which I go through how many writing pads have been filled with endless attempts at writing novels and stories, only to end somewhere mid-sentence through a middle chapter in a mixture of resignation and slight disappointment.

2. Derren Brown – parts one and two. When the “wisdom of the crowds” met the “scepticism of the Doktorb”. Guess who won…

3. Backstory – Jumper No idea why this is still picking up the readers, (it seems to be very popular every now and then with American IP addresses). What happens when a younger Dok goes into a clothes shop. And fails to do anything right.

4. Scotland Memories of Mallaig, the Small Isles, and such like. Badly typed Gaelic too, I wouldn’t wonder.

5. Nick Griffin – parts one and two No surprises here, I suppose. The one surprising thing about my articles making the case for the BNP leader to appear on Question Time is how many people got here searching for “X Factor” and “Simon Cowell is a [naughty word]”.

6. Sleeping with John Peel Musical musings and such like memories. I can only assume it’s the provocative title, you know….

Dusk’s optimism

These are the shadows embracing, the firm embrace of dream-time loosening, loosening. What strength drawn through the light milk of translucent morning stirrs the consciousness; arms stretched and hands posed as to admire jewellery.

These are the thoughts of uncertainty which melt with the dawn, voices not your own, typeface characterised in colour. If this is the wariness of dawn its partner must be the optimism at dusk.

Your footsteps have been walked before, we call them the witness of strangers, only with the addition of clunking chains. Maybe the touch of fabric against skin, slightest whispers of leaves, twigs, branches, rustling in the chase. Footsteps of a Victorian gentleman starched and bearded: else a lost woman holding up her hand to shade light and deflect attention.

In our hands grasped, an orb, purple and shocking-pink; these are the reputations we do not realise are held by others. Heavy, unusually warm, our bounty we are eager to hide under a plenitude of x’s. Imagine the jagged donut-hole.

Our ironic egg.

London fascist week

Nick Griffin must think all his birthdays have come at once.

From the first dawn of new year 2009, the mainstream media and blogosphere have united in giving the British National Party the one thing they crave; massive and widespread coverage. For around six months the topic was “How we can stop the BNP being elected to Brussels”. When the North West of England, and Yorkshire & Humber elected one BNP member each, the former being Griffin himself, a brief flurry of discussion later has lead to a new target: the BBC, in allowing Griffin to appear on Question Time, is now in the firing range.

Deluded rent-a-quote Peter Hain, MP for Neath and Welsh Secretary – so in other words, Minister For Having Nothing To Do With How the BBC Conducts Itself – has been ranting like a wind-up toy for weeks about nothing else. He called the BNP “illegal”, which must come as some shock to the Electoral Commission whose Register of Political Parties includes them just as they do almost every other group wishing to stand in elections. In Mr Hain’s imaginarium, the BNP probably do not exist. Or else, perhaps, they do; Griffin is only one below the Archbishop of Canterbury in order of precedence, and Question Time is a CGI-laden one-off event broadcast across all frequencies and watched by literally everyone.

The BBC are completely within their rights to ask Griffin to appear on Question Time, just as they are completely within their rights not to ask a card-carrying member of the Monster Raving Loony Party: much to the annoyance of people like Hain, Nick Griffin has gone and achieved the sort of democratic mandate every trick in the book was supposed to deny. “No Platform” has resulted in dozens of councillors, a GLA member, and 2 MEPs. The one thing which could have stopped the tide of BNP success – face-to-face discussion – was dismissed as being something akin to collusion or agreement.

Allowing Griffin to appear in all his pudgy wonky-eyed glory will “prove the lie” on the strength of his party and their policies. Jack Straw represents Blackburn, so should know a thing or two about the realities of racial relations in a multi-ethnic town. Bonnie Greer has her own perspective on the difficulties – and consequences – of racism far beyond our shores. On any subject other than race – and there’s quite a few news stories circulating at the moment – Griffin will struggle. Anyone who has seen UKIP leader Nigel Farage shoehorn Europe into every single answer he’s asked to provide know how tiring it becomes hearing the subject heave-hoed up the hill each and every time.

Griffin will hang himself with his own words. It’s not as though his other interviews and appearances have ever been successful in reinventing his reputation. Those who wish to deny his voice on QT forget just how many blogs and YouTube appearances the man is getting even as I type. Let democracy and the democratic process actually happen, on a respected and popular television programme, and then react.

There are a lot of extremists on the left-wing who forget that the “spectrum of politics” can so easily be displayed not as a straight-line, but as a circle…


Thatcher’s children turned 18 with the country on an economic high and confidence soaring. Blair’s children turn 18 at a time of deepening recession and unemployment touching 3 million. Such are the circles of history and the echoes which come from whoever is writing the great story of life.

Okay, yes, I know that things are not so simple, but try arguing with ultra-loyal Labour supporters about the real reasons behind the current economic problems faced here and world-wide. They deny that £800bn debt (and climbing) is of any real concern. Gordon Brown was looking somewhere else, doing something different, it was the Bank of England really, nothing to do with anyone on the Government benches. It is such cowardice from Labour and their more vociferous supporters which makes their certain defeat in 2010 all the better to look forward to.

As I wrote some weeks ago this month has turned out to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting. To have only around £7 to stretch out across three weeks is entirely my own doing. How I have lived, and what I have experienced, puts the national politics and economic headlines to one side. I do not want to come across as enjoying these past few weeks, acting like some kind of “poverty tourist” doing it for show.

It has been rather humbling, if nothing else. My 9o’clock or 10o’clock jaunts to the “reduced to clear” aisles as Tesco reminded me how much food waste there must be in this country, and how many people must live without the spare cash available to impulse buy or stock up on expensive treats. “Invisible poverty”, the reality of life behind closed doors, is something which affects thousands of people across the country. Thousands of pensioners who have to choose between heating and eating; a growing number of millions who cannot find a place back on the job ladder.

The first week following the discovery of my less-than-a-tenner situation has been something of a struggle. Entirely my own doing, I have to stress how much I realise this. I have become quite the fan of cut-price hotdogs and sell-by-date skimmed milk. Walking to work – five miles each way – is still hard to master. At Bamber Bridge I start something resembling a hurried trot: I must resemble a sit-com bridegroom late for the wedding after a list of “hilarious misunderstandings” and “you couldn’t make it up” situations.

I had to bite my tongue whenever a beggar asks “Do you have any spare change?”, as strictly speaking I actually don’t, which is different to the times I shake my head and mumble something indistinct about having ‘nothing to give’, whatever that means. As I type this – free Internet!, such things now become welcomed with open arms, thank you, thank you Lancashire County Council! – my bank balance is around £2.70. This should be fine, though, I’ve stacked up on Aldi Shredded Wheat and cup-a-soups. People from work are being quite generous with left overs and unwanteds.

But it’s not a situation I want to repeat. This is a window into another world; of actual poverty, of real life for thousands in this country and millions around the world. Unlike my temporary inconvenience, a lack of money and no guaranteed access to food is the reality for those in developing countries and so-called developed Western superpowers. It’s a bit much, I admit, taking one man’s overspending into the context of starvation in the poorest countries on Earth, but it takes a little of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” to put things into context.

However – and it’s a big “however” – having said all this, and with two weeks of struggle and lack of food still to go, this pay day weekend will be marked by a night of spending money with some abandon. It is surely my right to acknowledge the achievement of living this way by having one or two swift ales and the best darn foodstuffs So! Noodles has to offer of an evening…

…isn’t it…?

Toothless PCC "protects" homophobia

Yesterday’s Daily Mail included an article from Jan Moir entitled “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”. The inverted commas are not my doing; they were in the article.

Included in the piece was the quite bizarre and rather offensive observation;

Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one”

Moir then continued to pour scorn and homophobic derision on the late Gately on the eve of his funeral. Clearly this article was the result of a tight deadline and undiluted ignorant prejudice. Her article questioned how a 33-year old man could possibly die of “natural causes”, suggesting that the death was “sleazy”.

Like so many people – the latest figure is around 1,000 – I contacted the Press Complaints Commission to lodge my concern at the article’s content. That Moir shows signs of homophobia was not my primary concern; the PCC “Code of Conduct” was breached (particularly Clauses 5 i), 12, i) and ii), and 3 i)) and like so many people I felt it necessary to draw the PCC’s attention to these breaches.

What occurred, and has been picked up by various bloggers and magazines in the 24-hour period since, is the clearest sign of the toothless-tiger that is the Press Complaints Commission.

The PCC sent an email to anyone who forwarded their complaints that, in most cases, “third parties” cannot complain about specific articles concerning individual people. Pink News magazine says;

However, the body’s remit does not include offensiveness and it is likely that action can be taken only if Gately’s family complain.

If anything comes from this complaint it may not even be published; the PCC is not required to publish its findings.

I am no Boyzone fan, and the only time I have ever listened to Gately’s “New Beginnings” single is when an orchestrated version was used at a Liberal Democrat Conference in Southport. My problem with the article, and the problems felt by so many, is how the article was merely an unchecked and unbalanced prejudiced rant. There was no concept or requirement to stick within the rules of the PCC Code of Conduct. Stephen Fry said, via his Twitter feed, “I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane.”

If the PCC cannot push the Daily Mail into publishing an apology or fining Ms Moir, then its Code of Conduct is meaningless. The voluntary scheme it operates has no function in an age where social media and blogging sites can whip up far more support far quicker for situations like this. Press freedom is absolutely paramount in any developed Western democracy, and is not under threat from a tribe of Tweeting liberals. However the Daily Mail and Jan Moir got their freedom of speech completely upside-down yesterday, while probably knowing nevertheless that the PCC could do nothing to stop them from keeping the article on-line.

Homophobic attitudes are not “in the past”. Like so many prejudices they cannot be completely wiped off the face of the planet for prejudice and value judgements are part of human nature. On the football terraces and in the clubs and at the water-coolers people will make statements that could attract the fabled ‘politically correct brigade’ and as a proud democrat I do not want to wander around the country slapping injunctions on anyone who thinks that a situation is “a bit gay” on the grounds of gender-hate. Jan Moir is an extreme example, however, a woman whose article did more than just question the details of Gately’s death. In implying that somehow being gay was the cause – with more than a hint of Chris Morris’ ‘good AIDS/bad AIDS’ – she was allowed a national platform to print an article of innuendo and offense at the worst possible time.

There is a thick line of decency under which is prejudice, over which is freedom of speech. The PCC are lying on the line unable to comment on anything which falls beneath it. To tighten up the rules governing press content in the spirit of OFCOM and ASA rules is surely a pressing priority to maintain the right to live however one chooses in this day and age. The Daily Mail should publish an apology for Moir’s article immediately.

Turnout at the next General Election may fall below 50%…unless the population are required to vote by law….

Liberal that I am, the last thing I want to do is follow Tony Blair’s footsteps in turning our democracy into anything more of a “banana republic” style joke. Democracy is precious, and for all the improvements made to the way in which our system works there are far too many ways in which corruption is now commonplace. I say this as an activist and a voter: postal voting “for all” has taken away the assurance of British democracy being amongst the best in the world.

Understandably the MPs expenses scandal (of which so much more is being played out as we speak) has turned off many more thousands of voters who have tired of parliamentarians of all persuasions. There can only be so many times MPs can promise to be “whiter than white” only to throw a strop when an attempt is made to close the scandal sooner rather than later. Turnout in 2010 will fall below 50%, of that I am confident, as a consequence of the expenses mess and the inability for anyone – most notably Gordon Brown – to do anything constructive about the sorry affair.

As with so many Prime Ministers, the administration of elections – voting systems and the like – flies over the head of Brown as a mere irrelevance. That our democracy is more flawed and failing now than it was 10 or 20 years ago means nothing. That Labour are a Government with less support than any other in living memory is just tittle-tattle. First-past-the-post means winner-takes-all, and that is – as they say – “end of”.

So how about we look at the “modernising for the sake of it” zeal of Tony Blair and the Department for Constitutional Affairs/Ministry of Justice addiction to fiddling about with electoral administration, to come up with something of our own? If it’s alright for Belgium, Greece, and Australia, it could well work over here. Could the United Kingdom be fit for….compulsory voting?

From “a stern letter” to “a month community service”, what to do with anyone who does not cast a vote under compulsory voting is often brought up as a damn good reason not to introduce it here. Certainly no party leader has yet suggested the nation should be forced by legislation to show an opinion at a ballot-box (and I know from experience that opinion can be, in red capital letters, “CORRUPT BASTARDS”). Compulsion does not equal with liberalism, and I agree that following this Government down the route of legislating for everything is not the way to install confidence in the minds of very suspicious voters. However there is a massive contradiction which doesn’t tally up with my liberalism; how can there be so many opinions on politics, expenses, and current affairs, and yet so few people turning out to vote?

How can – indeed – so many people phone X-Factor phone lines or get Facebook to analyse what kind of serial killer/vegetable/famous footballer they are while not walking to the nearest church at election time? Compulsion, with a small fine perhaps after two or three no-shows, would surely promote politics and current affairs at the most local level? It would certainly ensure candidates do knock on every door in fear of being labelled as the one who can’t even get out the vote when there’s a law ensuring it happen…

Of course compulsory voting has not been suggested by anyone for one very good reason, and for that matter why my personal liberal persuasion cannot quite feel totally invigorated by the promise of future telling sessions being a little busier. Compulsory voting would merely sour further the relationship between voter and Westminster. For all my hope that people would be willing to find out more about each party, each candidate, every issue, the reality would be far less ideal; voters would feel angry at the lack of a “none of the above” option, and dismayed that politicians have tried to repair a broken system by seemingly punishing ordinary people. Turnout is falling because of a failure of more than just access to a ballot box on a wet Thursday.

As a liberal, compulsion from “up high” never sits well with me. Belgium and Australia have their systems woven into the fabric of their states, and in Greece there is no penalty for not voting anyway. In the UK our negative opinion of politicians suggests high turnouts, even though this is not the reality: trying to force people to have an actual recordable opinion by means of a ballot paper would be something to aim for…were it likely to achieve anything. For all that it may kill off the purile insult “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain”, I guess it is not something for the United Kingdom’s rather unique electoral system.

Unless, of course, radical reform far beyond the tame introduction of AV is the elephant crouching in the corner of the room. Liberalism never was easy to align with reality…

no money, no excuses

“You have insufficient funds in your account”

Not the blog I was expecting to write today. In times past I have suffered the same display message as above and crumbled like a character in sci-fi kneeling at the feet of a robotic overload. Now I reacted with the heavy sigh/simple nodding combination popular amongst reality-television stars fired or danced off or eliminated or however disposed.

The truth, then. From today, 11 October, to pay day on Friday, 30 October, the total amount of income available to me is £6. Six. I will spell it like the BBC “Final Score” vidiprinter. Although I will be checking my bank statement when it arrives, the financial final score is highly unlikely to be the result of identity theft (although I will hold out a little hope for this.)

In times past my reaction has been over-theatrical, almost hysterical. I have run to my savings accounts to keep me in milkshakes and bus-fares. This weekend has been completely different. Through my own actions I have suffered a rather unfortunate and difficult penalty.

Each wave of consequence to this hit me like being at Victory Park watching goals go in at the wrong end. Not being able to visit the (usually belting) Continental beer festival, not being able to replace my broken digital camera, and perhaps with a bit more vital importance about it, not being able to guarantee eating something every day for 21 days.

The change in my reaction is one-bit maturity, one-bit pride, a lot of helping of lack of alternatives. So walking to and from work every day – 2hrs each – should be a pain in the lower legs while doing a little better work on the beer belly. And I will not fall into the trap of starving myself for the sake of it: even with something around 20p per day (technically) I will find ways to keep hunger at bay….

I cannot feel sorry for myself too much. Okay so maybe the water rates should not have been paid in one chunk; maybe I should found alternative (cheaper!) means to travel to Horden, maybe the white-with-tartan hoodie was a purchase too far. The consequences will flicker on until payday; my luck is having a moment of relative “poverty” – and I really do use that for want of a better word – which is temporary. Unlike so many in society my lack of cash is not permanent. There are lessons to be learned – and indeed, yes, having been here before, those lessons should have already been revised somewhat! – starting with a lot of chores to be carried out with no connection to saving spends.

So this is the truth, then. Six pounds to last three weeks. A consequence of personal financial cock-hoopery. Here’s to payday, when I think (even with all things considered) I deserve spending quite a bit on celebrating.

What?…..Oh wait, I see…..

Nationalisation won’t get us back on track.

£1.8bn is the most recent figure for central Government spending on the railways. With the next Conservative government likely to have this as the very maximum they’d be willing to spend – and even that is a stretch – the future has not been this bleak for Britain’s rail infrastructure for generations.

In Scotland, the link to Glasgow Airport has been sacrificed by the SNP administration attempting to balance its books; Manchester’s Metrolink extension to its Airport is likely to be mothballed too. London’s Crossrail is a reality likely to remain, not least because of the Olympic Games in 2012, with the rest of the nation sitting on so many promises and long-ago given up dreams of being linked to the rail network.

I am not against long-term projects such as the High Speed project linking the North of England with London so quickly office workers could commute on a daily basis without losing sleep. Nor am I naive enough to demand massive expansion without consequence, although how many people must realise that the Beeching Axe did for economic and environmental policy long before many of today’s MPs were born? How different this country would be – how closer to our climate change ambitions – had the crisscross of railway lines slaughtered by Beeching allowed to remain.

Nationalisation is not the answer to our railway woes. Those on the Left who demand the return to public ownership are blinded by ideology. Some private companies may have bailed out – Connex, National Express – but the expansion of the network which has occurred, improvements to stations which has happened, the vast improvement in punctuality across all regions, would be unthinkable and grossly over-costed in the hands of Government. I do not want to return to slow, shoddy, slam-door British Rail trains, even though my daily commute often means 1980s Merseyrail brain-shakers into Bamber Bridge. Northern Rail is showing far more ambition than Regional Railways ever did.

The £1bn kitty for railways after 2010 will not be used with much abandon. It will have to be centred on what will be guaranteed to return the best value. But the railways are showing all the signs of short-term politics from both Labour and Conservative governments. Neither saw beyond each election day in terms of ambition for the rail network. More stations, more lines – all needed for the long-term good in addition to such massive projects as “High Speed II”.

We show the scars on our little island of our reliance on road expansion at the expense of railway funding. The future should have started years ago on making the trains run on time. From 2010 the question of railway investment may be too important to avoid.

Book Clubbed

If it be true that “everyone has one novel inside them”, I must have taken the quota for an entire postal district. Going through the memory banks I have brought to mind some of the aborted attempts at getting my name on the Waterstones bookshelves. Here’s what the Bestseller lists won’t be featuring anytime soon…

1) “Write about what you know…”
Get a group of lads forming a band at the height of Britpop, a group of girls hoping to win the prime-time “What It Takes” talent show, and with a bit of mild political satire the ingredients for an acceptable first-novel. In reality a dozen pages of rough drafting created a dozen characters who all sounded the same and no actual storyline.

2) “Write about something you don’t know…”
Take “Catcher In The Rye”, run over it with assumption and speed-reading, and…Get three or so scribbled pages on which there is nothing of much attention. I was young(er), there is that as an excuse…..

3) “It’s like Handmaid’s Tale but with blokes….”
So I borrowed far too much from Margaret Atwood (well, songwriters always get something in from a song they just heard on the radio…don’t they?). Despite my best efforts – “Sperm Bank Corporation”, “Bloke Farms”, that sort of thing – nothing, er, came.

4) “Dystopian futures, they’re popular…”
Drug taking, bored layabout northerner (I’m good at imagination) wakes up in Earth-like planet meeting strange people along the way. Twelve pages of drafting resulted in countless backstories, bad sex scenes, and a lead character who was essentially a Chinese Whispers version of me. Next!

5) “No, dystopian futures always work, try again…”
So in a Britain where homosexuality was never legalised…Twelve or so pages of drafting resulted in pretty much everything above, with the added secret ingredient of a lesbian who sounded like the most boring woman on Earth.

Essentially, I have more of the failed novels which everyone attempts to write at least once, all tucked away inside my head. It’s not as though every character killed along the way is still chunnering in my imagination craving atten….Wait, I have an idea……To the writing pad!